Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Rust & Bone
When the film debuted at last summer's Cannes Film Festival, it seemed to ignite a media firestorm for it's actress Marion Cotillard. The Oscar-honored French beauty, the same who's nearly become a Hollywood movie star returning to her native land for a hard hitting film from one of her countryman's most newly respected. The content of the film seemed secondary-- other than the fact that the famous lady was playing a whale trainer at a Sea World-like aquatic park who loses both her legs in a freak killer whale accident. Behind that hubbub is a subtle and beguiling performance that holds because of what Cotillard keeps from us; that mystery and sense of wonder. Aside from a few shrieks of "What has happened" shock, her Stephanie is creation of both the enchanting actress and the filmmakers is one that never asks nor pleas for sympathy and one that has no need for the typical rounds of disability anguish. All dare to make her unlikable even at times, but mostly just human.
Perhaps the other major surprise at first sight of Rust & Bone is that Cotillard's tale was merely one part, or perhaps even a little less than that if running time math matters any. Before the accident, Stephanie meets Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), a hulking brute, while she's teasing and inciting barroom fights as a local club where he is a bouncer. Ali's bruises are first met as emotional, not that he will share them, as he along with his young, estranged son move in with his sister, of whom he has a contentious relationship with, until the once amateur boxer finds an easier source of income in kicking the crap out of guys in backyard melees. Schoenaerts matches Cotillard round for round as the two take up an unlikely friendship, one that leads to emotional and spiritual healing, but not in the way one may expect. Both characters are at odds with their lives, if not with each other-- the find a small salvage in the arms of one another perhaps if nothing else because they've both become stagnate and estranged in themselves. Audiard puts aside any easily digestible sense of courtship as the two become bed mates, and invariably turned on their bruised bodies. It's a movie still through and through-- legs or not and scenes with muted make-up, Cotillard is still breathless, and with bruises and black-eyes, Schoenaerts still a catch.
There's brief respites of the ethereal, especially when Ali takes Stephanie out in the ocean for the first time, and a gracious rapport between the actors, but their afflictions, as well as their emotions feel strangely aloof. And as Rust & Bone edges on, the film becomes more improbable, reaching to an additional third act tragedy until it reaches an even more improbable glimpse of a happy ending. Audiard's filmmaking is seductive, and alternately alluring and electric, but in the end there's precious little to linger on aside from the beauty of it's leading actors. B